Three years after Barrister: Where are the inheritors?

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Today, December 16, 2013 marks the third anniversary of the transition from this life of Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Balogun, MFR, better known as Barrister. If he were to be alive, the creator of Fuji music would have been 66 in February of 2014

While his family, friends and fans all over the world have come to accept the finality of his passing, we continue to celebrate the life and times of a man who changed the musical direction of Yoruba music, and who, even in death, remains the reference point of what good music, at least in the Yoruba universe, should   be like.

His body of work, which covers half a century, continued to enjoy unparallel air play on radio stations throughout  the Yoruba country, and even in death, according to those who sell CDs, his albums continue to enjoy a  very high patronage.

The irony of this being the general assumption that those who have lived in his musical shadows for the last 40-50 years would now emerge after his death to fill the vacuum his passing has created, but  three years down the road, it still appears that nobody is big enough to step into the shoes of the master. Not for lack of trying mind you, and there had been one or two flashes, but generally the dominance that they thought would emerge has so far, remained a mirage.

A couple of days ago, I got a call from a friend, who, like most others who call along the same thread, was calling to ask for a title of a particular Barry song, or verify a particular Barry phrase, or just to have me listen to a particular track he was playing, or was being played at a party or a bar that they were at that particular time.

But, this call was different. He wanted to know if there was any Barry album, live plays or collabos that he was yet to have. I then gave him some names to enquire from, but he retorted that he had been to all of them, and some also referred him back to me. He then concluded rather sadly that he refused to believe that that was all there was, and that fuji music is dead.

Of course I disagreed with him. The genre is alive, strong, with most of the major players  still churning out albums with increasing regularity, still filling concert halls and shows every weekend.

He agreed, but his next question got me thinking, where are the inheritors?

There were historical parallels with what is happening to fuji music. When  Pa Abibu Oluwa died, the next line of stars stepped up, Alhaji Yusuf Ajao Olatunji Ojurongbe, Lefty Salami Balogun, even younger elements like Alhaji  Saka  Adio Olayigbade took up the mantle of sakara, but then the next generation of talents simply migrated to Fuji.

When Alhaji Haruna Ishola Bello died thirty years ago, and Alhaji Waidi Ayinla Omowura died  three years earlier, all attempts to keep the genre alive faltered, because the musical taste have changed. Apala became subsumed into Fuji, and it too became a footnote in Yoruba music history.

When Alhaji Barrister transformed the Ajisari concept and created Fuji music, he was 18

Right now, all the major stars in the genre are aging, Alhaji Rasaki Kolawole Ayinla Ilori is above 60 years,ditto Alhaji Iyanda sawaba and Alhaji Ayinde Commissioner,  Alhaji Wasiu Adewale Ayinde Anifowoshe  is in his mid 50s, even the generation after that, the Alabi Pasumas, the  Saheed Osupas, the Adewale Ayubas , The Sule Alao Malaikas and the Shefiu Alaos are also in their 40s.

There are no new talents singing fuji at the level  and at the age that the Osupas, the  Pasumas and the Ayubas started out, in their 20s. Even the children of these superstars are singing hip hop, not Fuji!

At any given time that fuji was threatened, Barry would always come out with something unique to make the genre constantly relevant. His iconic albums, E sinmi rascality, Fertilizer, Fantasia fuji, Reality and Barry at 40 were game changers.

The role and influence of Fuji Garbage on Juju and fuji music is yet to be fully studied and analysed. And the constant reinvention of the genre was one of the primary reasons for his musical longetivity, and his greatness.

Now that fuji music, the ultimate chamelionic genre is itself under threat, where are the young Turks to re invent it? Some are claiming that the current hip hop, at least the Yoruba version of it, is just another variation of fuji. While this may be true on a conceptual level, in practice, it is not so clear cut. A fuji musician can conveniently adapt hip hop, but which hip hop artiste can sing fuji in its raw form?

And this is the crux of the matter. A lot of fuji artistes see the glamour, the flambouyance and the adoration that Barry commanded, but they do not see the sacrifice of seeing the threat to the genre, and to react accordingly .

And it is in this area, more than any other, that the presence of Barrister would be solely missed.

Continue to sing for the saints, because you are one of them now, continue to sermonise with the prophets, because you have done your work, delivered your message, and therefore deserve your rest.

Three years, Ayinde Ogun, just like yesterday.

 

*Akogun Gani Kayode Balogun, jr , Senior manager, research and strategic development, National Mirror,writes from The Akogun Amunigun Villa, Odo Ona Elewe, Ibadan

 

 

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